The Valley Line: Guests get a sneak peek at Showcase House; Hillsides sponsor recognition reception

I'm sure people on the East Coast must have been dismayed Sunday when Punxsutawney Phil (the most famous groundhog of all) was routed out of his sleeping burrow on Sunday and was so irritated at seeing his shadow that he just wanted to go back to sleep. You know what that means, right? There will be six more weeks of winter. Those people in Gobblers Knob, Pa., where Phil lives, have seen so much snow that they can't stand the thought of any more of that white stuff.

However, if we are to have six more weeks of winter I hope that we will have lots of rain so that we can get out of the drought zone and lessen the possibility of parts of our state running out of water. Everyone, please do a rain dance!

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Did you watch the Super Bowl? My, it was a disaster for the Denver Broncos because those Seattle Seahawks ran all over them — 43 to 8. Of course I was rooting for the Seahawks, since I lived in Seattle for many years. Post game, I talked with several of my Seattle friends and they were thrilled about the outcome of Super Bowl XLVIII.

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The social scene is beginning to hum as spring nears.

On the last Friday of January the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts (PSHA) held its Empty House Party to give specially invited guests an early peek at its 50th annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design.

This year's house will be featured, along with the 49 past showcase houses, in a commemorative book, "50 Years of Pasadena Showcase Design Houses: Supporting the Arts Through Design." A past PSHA president, Fran Biles, has spearheaded the book project.

More than 500 people turned out at the Empty House Party to see the 1915 English country estate that was designed by architect Stiles O. Clements in the South Grand-Covington area of Pasadena. Now it is getting a complete renovation by 18 interior and eight exterior designers and will be open to the public beginning on April 13.

Greeting guests at the front door that evening were Donna Gotch, president of PSHA; Mary Ann Clayton, benefit chair, and Karol Franks, interior chair.

Vicki McCluggage, an LCF resident, was party co-chair that night along with Charlotte Varner.

"We wanted to make it festive for the 50th and we are so happy to have some of our traditional designers return for this momentous anniversary," McCluggage said.

Among the notable designers are Sherry Stein, who grew up in La Cañada. She and her design partner, Albert Janz of Henry Johnstone & Co., are designing the entry and staircase. Also, LCF designer Jan Ledgard, of Yorkshire Kitchens, Inc. is designing an outdoor kitchen area.

As guests wandered from room to room, they were able to see the house in its "before" stage when walls are already being knocked down and bare studs are exposed. They were not only able to chat with the designers but could see a display of their color palettes, fabrics and sketches for their visions of how the Showcase House will appear when it opens to the public.

The Empty House Party has always been known for its absolutely fabulous food and this year was no exception. The Kitchen for Exploring Foods prepared English-inspired delights such as Anne Bolyn lemon tarts, English sticky toffee pudding, Stilton cheese terrine, English braised beef. An impressive 50th anniversary ice sculpture centered the table where heaps of Dungeness crab, giant shrimp, and oysters on the half shell were offered.

"The fact that it is the 50th Annual Showcase House is a tremendous accomplishment and we are excited to welcome all our guests," Varner said. "I was fortunate to have chaired the 40th Showcase House, and as I said then, and repeat now, every visitor to Showcase is contributing to the arts when they buy a ticket, dine at our restaurant or shop at the shops, all contributions enable us to fund music and arts programs in the community."

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Bistro 45 restaurant in Pasadena was the place where Hillsides, a provider dedicated to improving the overall well-being and functioning of vulnerable children, youth and their families, held a sponsor recognition reception to honor the sponsors of its annual gala that is set for Feb. 22 at the Langham Huntington, Pasadena. The gala will be a celebration of art.

The art displayed during the reception gave guests a chance to be among the first to see the fine works that will be auctioned at the gala that will be chaired by Susan Pinsky. Notable was an abstract by JD Shultz, the artist who generously donated an eye-catching acrylic painting of framed Plexiglas, "It's Raining Love."

Southern California artist Nate Sonnenberg's patterned abstract, "S.R.R. Medium Green," was also on display during the evening. Among the art pieces shown were by plein air painter Laurie Hendricks; colorful muralist and illustrator Valerie Trimarchi, modern impressionist, Kay Henry; and South Pasadena artist, Leslie Saeta. A bold painting over a photograph of the Colorado Bridge by cinematographer and visual effects production company chief executive officer Sam Nicholson caught the attention of many of the guests.

Robert and Deborah Simon hosted the reception that drew more than 75 guests.

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JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at jnvalleysun@yahoo.com with news of your special event.

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